Source: Northwestern Lancet
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Anarchy vs. Insanity”
Date of publication: 15 September 1901
Volume number: 21
Issue number: 18
|“Anarchy vs. Insanity.” Northwestern Lancet 15 Sept. 1901 v21n18: pp. 384-85.|
|Leon Czolgosz (mental health); criminals; Leon Czolgosz (trial: predictions, expectations, etc.); McKinley assassination (personal response); Leon Czolgosz (trial: compared with Guiteau trial).|
|Leon Czolgosz; Charles J. Guiteau; William McKinley.|
Anarchy vs. Insanity
An anarchist is defined in the Century
dictionary as “one who seeks to overturn by violence all constituted forms and
institutions of society and government, all law and order, and all rights of
property, with no purpose of establishing any other system of order in the place
of that destroyed.”
Insanity has been briefly defined as “a disease of the brain with psychic manifestations.[”]
If these definitions be reasonbaly [sic] accurate, Czolgosz, who attempted the assassination of President McKinley, is an anarchist, and is not insane. It is a difficult matter, however, to place the individual in his proper class.
He may be a pure criminal, born of criminal parentage and brought up in criminal surroundings, and manifesting his propensities by petty criminal acts, which stamp him early in life as a criminal.
On the other hand, he may be born with a bad heredity behind him, with criminal or disease tendencies, growing among better environment than his ancestors, yet in his development circumstances or disease may interrupt his growth, and he become a crank, an ambitious paranoiac, unrecognized until a criminal act stops his career.
A third class are those who are self-constituted reformers, or belong to a class of governmental or social rebellionists. They are easily swayed by argument, emotion or impulse, being ready to seek notoriety even when they know that in consequence of their act they may be deprived of life or the rights of citizenship. They are deficient in many ways, physically, intellectually and morally, yet have reason and judgment, and are capable of determining right from wrong.
Who shall decide their classification? Who is  responsible for their growth? And who shall determine their end?
It hardly seems probable that trial or punishment of Czolgosz will be delayed. The deed was premeditated, planned by a body of anarchists, perpetrated, and witnessed by responsible parties. A question of insanity could not be raised with safety, and would not be entertained by any jury. The fury and indignation of the people of the United States demand the protection of its president, as well as the disorganization of bodies thought to be treasonable.
The case against the assassin seems clear, the presumption is strong that he is sane, and justice demands that he should be punished and that the instigators who prompted the crime and who promote doctrines that appeal to and dominate weak natures should be rigidly suppressed, not only to protect our government officials, but to protect those of ill-balanced brain from passing the border line of sanity.
The trial, conviction and execution of Guiteau, which occupied the courts of justice for months, will not bear repetition. It will be remembered that a large number of medical experts testified that Guiteau was sane, and responsible. The real point in issue, however, was, whether or not there existed a form of insanity known as “moral insanity.” This was the rock upon which many of the experts split. As might have been expected, the jury, confused by the mass of testimony, convicted the murderer. The autopsy demonstrated beyond a question of doubt that the brain of the assassin was grossly defective, as well as grossly diseased.
The cases of Guiteau and Czolgosz are not similar in detail, and the question of insanity should not enter into the question of punishment.